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Kevin Schnepf, Published July 24 2013

Schnepf: Unfortunately for Vikings, Ponder is not the answer

Fargo - Samantha Ponder once tweeted: “Yesterday, we were mistaken for Tony Romo and his wife.”

She was referring, of course, to her husband Christian Ponder – the 25-year-old many are banking on to be the quarterback to lead the Minnesota Vikings to the promised land. (Promised land may be a bad choice of words considering this season’s Super Bowl is going to be held in New Jersey).

Unfortunately for those optimistic purple facepainters, Christian Ponder is no Tony Romo. He is no Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton or Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson ….

Need I say more? That list could go on for at least another 15 NFL quarterbacks who would be better suited to lead the Vikings.

As the Vikings prepare to open training camp in Mankato this week, all the NFL scribes will be telling us how this is the make-or-break season for Ponder. They will tell us how third-year quarterbacks either make a statement or fall into oblivion.

Many have already described his performance last season as “The Good” (led the Vikings to the playoffs), “The Bad” (ranked second-to-last in passing yards per game) and “The Ugly” (three turnovers against Washington, including a pick six that was overthrown five feet against a pass defense the was one of the worst in the NFL).

It could be more of the same this season – considering Ponder gets spooked in the pocket like George Constanza in an apartment fire. He has trouble surveying defenses – which most are well aware of his inability to throw the long ball.

Somehow, Viking coaches didn’t detect all that when they made Ponder the No. 12 pick of the 2011 NFL Draft. That was the year Cam Newton went No. 1, Jake Locker No. 8 and Blaine Gabbert No. 10.

So far, Newton is the only legitimate NFL quarterback. And so is Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick, who were the No. 35 and 36 picks of that 2011 draft.

Kaepernick was a big surprise. But Dalton was ripe for the picking for the Vikings. Instead, they have Ponder with backup Matt Cassel just waiting for him to screw up – hoping for the chance to atone for his dreadful season with the Kansas City Chiefs last season.

Here’s how those three quarterbacks ranked in the NFL last year:

• Quarterback rating: Dalton 13th, Ponder 21, Cassel 32.

• Yards per game: Dalton 19th, Cassel 27th, Ponder 31.

• Completion percentage: Dalton 12th, Ponder 13th, Cassel 24th.

• Touchdown passes: Dalton 7th, Ponder 23rd, Cassel 35th.

Cassel’s numbers look as painfully feeble as Ponders, but he does have experience. In 2008, he stepped in for an injured Tom Brady and led the Patriots to the playoffs.

Viking fans can only hope he rediscovers that magic. Meanwhile, Ponder remains a project.

Perhaps Samantha his wife, an ESPN reporter for college football and basketball, can help. When she interviews Heisman winning quarterback Johnny Manziel, maybe she can ask him how the heck he threw for 5,200 yards and 47 touchdowns.

When she tracks down San Jose State quarterback David Fales, maybe she can ask him how he completed 72 percent of his passes.

With their jobs heating up soon and keeping them apart, Samantha can simply text Christian her inside information. Just like Christian texted her when he learned of Aaron Rodgers new contract.

“Aaron Rodgers just got paid 22 a year,” he texted.

“Woah,” Samantha responded.

“Do you need anything from Walmart?” joked Christian.

“Hahahahaha,” Samantha responded.

Hopefully, Christian Ponder’s sense of humor remains intact during a Viking season that vitally hinges on his performance as a quarterback.


Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor

Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549 or at kschnepf@forumcomm.com